can smart phone cameras compete with the “big” ones with big lenses?

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more flower pictures (unedited):

wanted to get the best smart phone camera that is not Apple 😜

(this phone is a offline camera-only phone (it will not get a wifi password or a sim card), it will do photography and OpenStreetMap navigation, that’s it)

big lenses will always gather more light than small lenses in shorter amount of time, but smart phones are more compact and thus easy to carry in a pocket, always ready to take a snap.

The S21 Ultra (get the specs here) proofs, more resolution is good, but it’s not all about resolution (details) but also how realistic are the colors? (here the S21 Ultra does quiet a bit of post processing? also always telling the user “move cam a bit more in this direction to have full color range” (HDR) … which is great it can do HDR but also strange because, the user wants to decide what to photograph? X-D)

in fact, when taking pictures in maximum 108MP resolution of the S21 Ultra, 1x JPG becomes ~40MBytes in size, filling fast any harddisk and making photo editing on a i5 rather slow X-D

what is good?: the camera, is 108MP “better” than 48MP mode?

(click on the pictures to get them in fullscreen)

here is a comparison: picture taken from the same tree in 48MP mode (then cropped to that tree only):

here is a comparison: picture taken from the same tree in 108MP mode (then cropped to that tree only):

Yes, there are more details in the 108MP version.

So the power-user with 10TB of dedicated harddisk space and a fast AMD Ryzen with 32GB of RAM, with OS installed on NVMe, will have no problem viewing (loading time!) and storing those 108MP pictures, all other users will hit some “speed limits” (it just sucks if it takes longer than 3sec to load-view a picture X-D)

full res crazyness: 8k video recording in x265!

here is a example sample 8k video:

(click here or on the picture to download the full size full resolution video (107MBytes (save on harddisk, because firefox won’t play it)

resolutions SD (480p) vs Full HD (1080p) vs 4K Ultra HD vs 8K Ultra HD (click to view original size)

resolutions SD (480p) vs Full HD (1080p) vs 4K Ultra HD vs 8K Ultra HD (click to view original size)

Even faster fills the harddisk the 8k video recording mode (x265 does it’s best to compress those enormous amounts of data) of the S21 Ultra, the phone warns: “do not take videos longer than 5minutes or it might overheat“!!!

(at 10MBytes/sec, 100 sec of 8k video with x265 = 1000MBytes ~1Gbyte)

It is amazing Samsung can pull this off in 2021.

The current 4k resolution is already very impressive, so why more? (is the question)

Most users will be very happy with 4k. Some always want more.

A very fast CPU (better 16x than 8x cores!) is needed to play back 8k video fluently (i5 can not do it).

There are not many TVs that support 8k at the current moment, but yes, 8k will be unbelievable high resolution (4x times that of 4k!!!) demanding massive computational powers (aka chips that can do 8k x265 in hardware, because CPUs are struggling) to play back fluently for the home cinema power user, definately interesting – for the regular user and everyday use: massive data overflow.

the natural limit: the human eye

when will smart phones and screen have better resolutions than the human eye?

Imho when the resolution of the screen outdoes the resolution of the human eye?

“There are several problems with comparing human vision to a digital image.”

“the brain must make sense of a stream of information to form what we call vision.”

“The image created by the eye alone during a single glance is not the image which we interpret.”

“According to scientist and photographer Roger M. Clark of Clark Vision, a screen would have to have a density of 576 megapixels in order to encompass our entire field of view.” (src)

578MP (5x that of the S21 Ultra maximum resolution) way to go Samsung X-D, impressive nature!

what could be better…

macro: taking pictures of things very closely: best taken in 3x zoom mode (48MP):

Can the user spot the tiny dust particles on the flower? pretty remarkable! well done Samsung 🙂

here is another one, taken in 3x zoom mode:

given the GIMP + colors + sharpness treatment:

this is “no zoom mode” (1x) mode 48MP:

S21 Ultra default colors: (it does a lot of post processing)

plus gimp color enhacements:

  • Colors -> Levels, move the right or middle lever to the left, for more brighter colors
  • or alternatively:
  • Colors -> Brightness-Contrast -> give (for example) 10 Brightness and 30 Contrast to enhance colors

going maximum 108MP resolution:

click on this “thumbnail” to load the full res 108MP landscape picture (32MBytes (this one compresses well)):

here is one that, because of more details, does not compress so well: (39MBytes)

here is one that, because of more details, does not compress so well: (42.7MBytes)

the details this camera produces are truly amazing, almost requires a stand, because the sharper the image, the more a shaky hand will blur it.

(hint: it is possible to trigger camera with volume up/down keys, which might be better than “tapping” on the screen = shaking the camera)

it can do some night sky photography

  • during clear night skies it is possible to do some star photography with the S21 Ultra
  • switch to “night mode” and put it on a stable table outside (takes 7Seconds)
  • after update imho nightmode now tries to “auto guess” the seconds… imho no good, previously it was possible to set 3s 5s 7s …

shooting for the moon: moonshots:

  • with the zoom, it is even possible to take pictures of the moon (!) (usually the moon is just a “white glaring ball” but when zoomed in the S21 Ultra realized to “dial down” on the exposure-sensitivity and all the users needs is a stand or a very steady hand X-D
  • “moon shot” without zoom = blury blob of crap
  • moon shot with 50x zoom (10x optical, 40x digital (not so sharp)
  • so in order to make photos from the moon, the user needs zoom in at least 50x or 70x or 80x or even 100x (maximum) (otherwise “glaring blob”)

after software updates, another day, another try:

Samsung_S21_Ultra_100xZoom_Moon_shot - cropped but color wise unedited

Samsung_S21_Ultra_100xZoom_Moon_shot – cropped but color wise unedited

Samsung_S21_Ultra_70xZoom_Moon_shot - unedited

Samsung_S21_Ultra_70xZoom_Moon_shot – unedited

S21 Ultra night mode - long term exposure - with a bit of gimp color enhacement

S21 Ultra night mode – long term exposure – with a bit of gimp color enhacement

Warning! S23 Ultra is Ai-cheating on moon pictures?

“Samsung writes in its lunar photo algorithm documentation that after identifying the moon, “a Deep Learning-based AI detail enhancement engine (Detail Enhancement Technology)” is applied in the final stage “to effectively remove noise and maximize the details of the moon to obtain a bright and clear image of the moon.” However, this detail maximization appears to simply be a texture replacement.”

(auto translated from src:

(did some testing and while the S21 Ultra also does some post processing of a picture (any picture, also moon picture) it does not seem to add artificial textures to a detected object, such as the moon)

Samsung is STRONGLY adviced to not temper too much with the pictures users take.

software updates:

yes Samsung does em… and lately pretty frequent.

what has changed since 2022-04 that the default photo app, auto-closes it’s settings… so it’s not possible to use the settings anymore (either it’s a bug or simplify samsung style?)

but managed to take these night time photos:

and here comes the S22…

because it uses a brand new sony photo sensor that is optimized for low light… the S22 “should” deliver pretty well on moonshots.

but judge yourself, here and here.

daytime moon shots:

The Video Slomo mode

there are actually 2x slomo modes:

Why a 10x zoom?

Digital zoom is utter crap, but optical zoom: YES!

A 10x  optical zoom is great, if the user wants to take pictures from shy animals far away, or details far away.

Imho in this mode the S21 Ultra camera is probably even better than the human eye spotting details at a distance.

So yes the S21 Ultra 10x optical (not pixely blurry digital!) zoom makes sense especially for nature photographers.

108MP plus 10x zoom?

would be awesome, but the S21 Ultra switches between all 3 camers to try to chose the best for the scenario (auto detecting “food”).

Unfortunately, it is not really possible, because the 108MP cam is not the one with the 10x zoom.

Suspecting that the 8k video cam is the same that also does the 108MP still pictures, in 8k video recording mode there is no zoom, it is “fixed”.


it’s a nice phone with a nice camera.

of course it’s pretty big. but smaller than an CANON or SONY or FUJITSU X4

using the “offline phone” for:

  • photography
  • OpenStreetMap offline navigation
  • S22 (ONLY THE ULTRA WILL HAVE 10x OPTICAL ZOOM!) is coming out soon (2022-02 “Samsung itself has now confirmed that the Galaxy S22 range will be unveiled in February” then S21 probably will get cheaper! 😜👍😎 (usually not buy the latest tech, because yes too expensive, this time it was “whatever smart phone is not Apple and has the best camea”)

Warning! SCAMMERS Fake Phones on eBay!!!

S22 or S21 for 100 bucks on eBay? it’s probably fake or stolen X-D

WOOOOT – eBay and Amazon (wtf!?) “okay” with dangerous Fake and Scam Phones (S21 Ultra) offered and sold via it’s platform (some come with exploding chargers)

Open Source Photo editing/enhancing: Adobe After Effects for GNU Linux?

let’s face it, the best pictures, become even more beautiful, when they are carefully (not too much) photo enhanced with progams such as Photoshop & Gimp & Adobe After Effects.

Next to heavy use of GIMP there is an interesting photo editing/enhancing/beautifier program called RawTherapee and GNU Linux Debian has packages for it 🙂

“While After Effects has it’s place in VFX, it is considered to be old fashioned by many specialists in the field due to the archaic UI.”

“Most modern competitors to After Effects use a node based user interface, with Nuke (by being the prominent contender.”

“And while Open Source alternatives to After Effects are lacking, node based alternatives are not!”

“use Blender or Natron to do the same thing”

“Natron is an open source, cross platform nodal compositing application.” (src)

More Video centered (?) Blackmagic Design Fusion

this is really really coool…


after the RawTherapie X-D


click on the pictures to get them in full resolution

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more Samsung S21 Ultra – nature photography + RawTherapie post processing – test sample example pictures fotos

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